of the valley
Hemlock is an annual
or biennial weed widespread in Europe. It has an unpleasant smell, a hollow
stem with red spots and small white blossoms. All parts of the plant are
very poisonous, which is due to the alkaloid coniin.
of its parts are poisonous...
were familiar to ancient Greeks and Romans, and the plant usually had to
play the part of an executioner.
The lethal dose for a human
being is 0.15 g. It causes nausea and vomiting, movement- and speech retardation;
the pupils dilate, which is followed by characteristic rising paralysis
of the limbs and eventually paralysis of the thoracic muscles, leading
It is most famous
for being the cause of the death of a great philosopher, Socrates, who
was accused of atheism. His prominent disciple Plato described his death
as a calm and yet, an anxious one, his legs became colder and colder,
he lay upon the garden-seat and kept talking to the people around. He kept
his thoughts and mind clear till the very end. This tragedy happened ca
the past, hemlock was used as a painkiller in folk medicine. There is no
data as to its application in modern medicine.
Similar poisonous effects
have two other plants from the same group, often mistaken for hemlockthe
hemlock (Cicuta maculata) and the western water hemlock
(Cicuta douglasii). Their toxicity is aimed mainly at the central
nervous system and is due to alkaloids such as cicutoxin and cicunol.